in Review

The Legend of Korra Season 3

There’s nothing like The Legend of Korra on TV, and now that sadly includes Korra itself, which transitioned to online-only midway through its third season after Nickelodeon massively dropped the ball at marketing the show. You see, the first three episodes of “Book Three: Change” (the series calls seasons books) leaked, forcing the network decided to rush the season out, announcing the premiere just a week before it aired and with almost no fanfare. Not surprisingly, Korra experienced series-low ratings, and before the show could recover it got bumped into cyberspace.

For a big fan, this transition has been bittersweet. On the one hand, this is exactly the show I wish kids were watching. It’s truly all-ages entertainment, smart, beautifully made, and an action series with a kickass female lead, there aren’t a lot of those going around. But on the other hand, it’s been six weeks since “Change” ended and the new season, “Balance,” is already available to stream. It undoubtedly will be the last, and it’s kind of crazy to think that the world will be without Avatar again before 2015.

I first got into this franchise is college, when some YouTube videos inspired me to check out The Last Airbender, which was cursing into its excellent final season. I was aware of the show before that, it was something my brothers watched, but Nickelodeon stigma kept me away. I’m glad I gave it a chance, because that show ended up being among my favorites of all time, and now its successor is finally getting to be at that same level.

“Change” is all about the ramifications of the last season, “Spirits,” which ended with Korra deciding to leave the portal between the worlds open, allowing spirits and humans to live together. This has caused at least two major shifts in the world: Republic City is overrun with spiritual greenery and people all over the world are discovering they can airbend. This allows Korra and the rest of Team Avatar a chance to finally get out of the city and travel the world as they begin rebuilding the Air Nation.

There are obstacles along the way, none of which is more dangerous than Zaheer, a dangerous, philosophical anarchist who is fittingly played by Henry Rollins. After discovering he can now airbend, Zaheer escapes from prison and reunites his own team featuring an armless waterbender, an earthbender who can create lava, and a firebender with combustion skills like that guy from The Last Airbender. Together they set out to capture Korra, and prove to be the most dangerous and exciting villains the series has ever had.

Probably the greatest thrill of The Legend of Korra for me is how exciting and amazing it is to get beautifully animated and choreographed magical kung fu fighting on a weekly basis. Having enemies that are capable of each kind of bending meant that every fight this season was interesting and different from the last, especially the final battle of the season, which, because of spoilers, can’t be explained but must be seen.

I couldn’t get as invested in this show as I am if I just watched for the fighting, however, and “Change” is also the strongest season of the series in terms of character development. Previous mistakes are undone and turned into opportunities for growth, insights into hidden pasts are given, relationships are shifted, broken, and strengthened. For the first time, I’m starting to really care about this Team Avatar the way I did about Aang’s Team Avatar. No easy task considering every season of Korra has been about half as long as one of The Last Airbender.

Look, I know I’m not winning anyone over by writing about how special this franchise has become to me. It’s probably too late anyway, given the digital death sentence Nickelodeon has given the franchise. But I had to write something, and if you are interested at all, you can stream the whole series at right now and catch up in time to be on board this sinking ship before she’s completely underwater. I have the utmost confidence “Balance” will be amazing. And I know I’m going to miss her a whole lot when she’s gone.